Is it an earthquake or simply a shock? Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?
Last Friday, Varese Vintage had an unexpected treat for fans of Peter Bogdanovich's cult classic musical comedy with the first-ever CD release of the original RCA Victor soundtrack to At Long Last Love.
Bogdanovich, the Oscar-nominated director of films including The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and What's Up, Doc intended At Long Last Love to pay homage to Hollywood's dazzling musical comedies of the 1930s and the charmingly spellbinding films of Ernst Lubitsch. The comedic plot revolved around the romantic entanglements of the central foursome of heiress Brooke Carter (Cybill Shepherd), dashing playboy Michael Pritchard (Burt Reynolds), actress Kitty O'Kelly (Madeline Kahn) and gambler Johnny Spanish (Duilio Del Prete). For the score, the writer-director turned to the Cole Porter songbook and in a move that's still unusual today, insisted upon having his mostly non-singing cast - including top-billed Shepherd and Reynolds as well as Kahn, Del Prete, Eileen Brennan and John Hillerman - record their vocals live. (Kahn, Brennan and Del Prete were all musical veterans.) Bogdanovich explained that the spontaneity and lack of perfection was actually what he was after; he also chose to film most of the musical sequences in one continuous take.
Though 20th Century Fox supported the high-concept musical in high style, audiences and especially critics were unforgiving. Yet some in the latter camp, including Roger Ebert, appreciated many of its charms. The film grossed around $2.5 million, roughly half of its budget. Various parties associated with the film had their theories as to what went wrong for the labor of love; Bogdanovich himself recut the film numerous times following its release at his own expense. Though At Long Last Love gained a cult following on cable television and on the collectors' circuit, it was never released on DVD or Blu-ray, until a fan of the movie took action of his own.
In 2011, Peter Bogdanovich found At Long Last Love available on Netflix, and it wasn't long before he realized that he wasn't watching any of his previous cuts. Apparently James Blakely, an editor at Fox, had taken it upon himself to secretly reconstruct the movie, adhering closely to Bogdanovich's original script and first preview cut. Blakely's version had been the one shown on cable television and Netflix, and by Bogdanovich's acknowledgement, it was his cut of the film that had played a large role in gaining the movie a cult audience. Making minor further adjustments, including the restoration of a 90-second sequence, Bogdanovich consented for the largely-acclaimed 2013 Blu-ray release of At Long Last Love.
RCA's original double-LP set, included here on one CD, features sixteen Porter-penned tracks including medleys. Many of Porter's most familiar songs are here, including the title track, "You're the Top," "Friendship," "It's De-Lovely" and "Just One of Those Things," as well as lesser-known compositions like "Which," "A Picture of Me Without You" and "Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love." A couple of the songs on the LP (Del Prete and Kahn's "From Alpha to Omega" and Shepherd and Kahn's "I Loved Him (But He Didn't Love Me)") were excised from the film after its London premiere but remained on record. Other songs (Kahn's "Down in the Depths," Del Prete's "Tomorrow") never made the soundtrack album. The juxtaposition of Gus Levene, Harry Betts and Artie Butler's grand period orchestrations with the loose, far-from-polished vocals (sometimes with sound effects intact due to the unusual method of filming) makes for a soundtrack experience as unique as the film itself and a fine souvenir for its fans.
Varese's reissue of At Long Last Love features a beautiful 12-page color booklet designed by reissue co-producer Bill Pitzonka featuring new liner notes by Jim Lochner plus the original 1975 LP notes by musical theatre historian Miles Kreuger. Chas Ferry has remastered the album. We would like At Long Last Love to be YOURS! To enter to win ONE OF FIFTEEN COPIES, simply LIKE our Facebook page, and head over to Varese Sarabande's FB page and do the same! Just leave us a comment on the AT LONG LAST LOVE post on our FB page. Let us know: What's your favorite Cole Porter song? Or your favorite Peter Bogdanovich movie? Once you like both pages and comment anything you'd like to share about this most unusual musical, you'll automatically be entered to win!
If you've entered our previous giveaways and have already liked BOTH The Second Disc and Varese's Facebook page, you can still win: simply enter a comment on our thread to be entered! Only one entry per person. Remember, BOTH FB pages must be "LIKED" and a comment left on our page in order to win!
Don't have Facebook? We're not leaving you out in the cold! Just send an e-mail to theseconddisc AT gmail DOT com with the subject line "AT LONG LAST LOVE" plus your name and mailing address, and you'll also be entered to win!
The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on the evening of Friday, October 23, at which time 15 random winners will be selected. Contest open to all. Only one entry per person either via Facebook or email. All winners at sole discretion of The Second Disc. U.S. residents only, please. This contest is NOT affiliated with or endorsed by Facebook. Winner will be notified by Monday, October 26 via Facebook and The Second Disc, so remember to check back! Good luck!
At Long Last Love is available now from Varese Vintage at the links below!
Various Artists, At Long Last Love: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA ABL2-0967, 1975 - reissued Varese Vintage 302 067 342 8, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
- Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare
- Which - Cybill Shepherd and Eileen Brennan
- Poor Young Millionaire - Burt Reynolds and John Hillerman
- You're the Top - Burt Reynolds, Madeline Kahn, Duilio Del Prete and Cybill Shepherd
- Find Me a Primitive Man - Madeline Kahn
- Friendship - Madeline Kahn, Cybill Shepherd, Burt Reynolds and Duilio Del Prete
- Musical Intro/But In the Morning, No - Eileen Brennan, John Hillerman, Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd
- At Long Last Love - Duilio Del Prete, Madeline Kahn, Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd
- Well, Did You Evah? - Burt Reynolds, Madeline Kahn, Cybill Shepherd, Duilio Del Prete and Mildred Natwick
- From Alpha to Omega - Duilio Del Prete and Madeline Kahn
- Medley (Let's Misbehave/It's De-Lovely/But in the Morning, No) - Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd
- Just One of Those Things - Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd and Duilio Del Prete
- I Get a Kick Out of You - Cybill Shepherd
- Medley (Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love/I Loved Him (But He Didn't Love Me)) - Eileen Brennan, Cybill Shepherd and Madeline Kahn
- Medley (A Picture of Me Without You/At Long Last Love/Finale) - Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Madeline Kahn and Duilio Del Prete
This is a great film. I highly recommend the 2013 Blu-ray version. Amazon lists it as "Region A/1", but it's NOT. it's Region Free so it can be watched worldwide.
The video quality is very good, but the audio track is mono, and it's acceptable but not great. It's OK if you listen along the film but, even if the songs and the performances are excellent, audio quality-wise I'm not sure if it makes a great stand-alone soundtrack.
I understand that vocals & orchestra were recorded live and mixed directly to mono, so unless they unearthed some lost, spectacular audio tape, I doubt the quality of this CD is going to top the Blu-ray version. Plus, the BR has a second audio track, this one stereo, with the orchestral score only, and since the vocals were recorded live you can still hear them in the background, captured by the orchestral mikes. If you're a fan of the movie, it's quite fascinating. Plus, this CD seems a missed opportunity since it's still missing some great film-tracks (Del Prete's "Tomorrow" is amazing) which were left out from the original double LP. They could easily have made a fine 2-CD reissue by including all the songs from the film AND the record, plus the orchestral tracks, but no, they had to mess this up.
My suggestion, if you're going to pick just one between the Blu-ray and the CD, go with the BR, it's a no-brainer.